Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rwanda Agricultural Show...

Germaine and I received the trophy at UOB devotion
Rwanda's government to govern the agriculture and annimal husbandry is MINAGRI. MINAGRI holds the Rwanda Agricultural Show annually. Many stakeholders participate in the show with their products and services.

Most of them are agricultural producers and traders. Rwanda's main export items among agricultural products remain coffee and tea. But Rwandan government has designated other crops as strategic items to promote, including wheat, rice, maize, beans and horticulture.

Among the participants are financial institutions that provide loans and/or insurance to the farmers. UOB was one of seven banks that participated in the Agriculture Show in 2013 that took place in June. UOB has been providing production financing for maize, rice and Irish potatoes for the past three years.

Agricultural Financing is a risk business. For the sole purpose of the bank business, I wish we did not have to. But it would be inappropriate that a micro finance bank with a strong transformation mission would neglect the 90% of the population which are directly or indirectly related to agriculture. There are far too many risks that may not be mitigated properly, yet agricultural financing does not even produce a return that is corresponding to the risks being taken. Thus, it takes a focused mission and creative ways to mitigate the risks to the level that justifies a low return.
UOB's Booth
UOB financed 1,400 farmers in 2011, 4,500 in 2012 and aims to provide financing for 8,000 farmers in 2013. It is an ambitious goal, but Lord's willing, we will.

UOB was selected for two years in a row as one of two financial institutions that are considered to be participating in the agricultural sector with excellence. The Agricultural Finance Manager, Seguro Espoir, received it and delivered it to the bank management. I had the privilege of receiving it and surrendering it to the honor of God who has enabled us to do and to all staff who has been at the center of all the work that has been done. Praise the Lord! - Jeffrey

Friday, June 28, 2013

Solar Lamps for Rural Rwanda...

UOB staff testing the lamps
Rwanda has only 16% of population access to power grid connection. The country has a100 mega watts capacity installed but 87.5 MW available. 50-60% of them are hypro power including imported hydro power. The solar energy accounts for less than 1%. Kigali, the capital, seems to have adequate lights but rural Rwanda is still far short of the power.

Rwanda is close to the equator and it enjoys the sun light pretty much all the time. It is God's blessing.

An easy solution to address the power shortage in Rwanda? Absolutely! It is the solar energy. But its supply is minimal.

With this conviction, UOB has decided to supply strong solar lamps to its clients in rural areas. UOB will partner with Great Lakes Energy that will supply Sun King solar lamps, starting from Musanze. The solar lamps are strong enough to handle the fall onto the concrete floor without breaking. It may be hand-held like flashlight or placed on a stand in the room. Fully charged, it lasts up to eight hours. There is an indicator of time left so that people can manage the usage. Also, it can charge the telephone battery.
Clients testing the solar panel joyfully
I am excited about what it will do to the rural families. Now children can study in the evening. The families do not have risk their children with the kerosine smog and fire hazard. Moreover, this solar lamp of $50 can pay back within two months and without any additional cost, unlike kerosine, for as long as it lasts, probably five years. The solar panel or the battery may have to be replaced after five years.

We are also considering distributing solar chargers that may even bring income to families.

It is my prayer that more Rwandans in rural areas may benefit the lights from these solar lamps and/or solar chargers. It is even stronger prayer that they may see and experience the true light: Jesus.

"And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light." (Genesis 1:3)

"In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:4,5)

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

Furthermore, Jesus said that we are the light also in the world. But we should be reflecting the true light, Jesus. Our good deeds reflecting the true light will bring God the Father the glory that He deserves.

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neigher do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)
- Jeffrey      

Monday, June 17, 2013

UOB in a Book, "The International Bank of Bob"...

Bob Harris is an author.

He is an avid traveler also.

He likes micro finance and how it helps the poor graduate out of chronic poverty in developing countries. He is a long time serious individual lender through provides "Bob and Mary anywhere in the world" to lend small loans, from $25, to the poor in developing countries anywhere in the world. To learn more about, click here

He once was struck by the reality of the poor while he was in United Arab Emirates. He was there to make money, but he realized how many poor people suffer while the rich enjoy their lives.

He wanted to find out more about the reality of the poor life. He launched a journey.

For this journey, he decided to combine what he is good at doing, what he enjoys doing and what he believes he should be doing. He is good at writing, he enjoys traveling and he believes in what is doing.

He traveled a dozen or so countries to eyewitness how the micro lending really helps the poor. His findings were fascinating and thrilling. He put all these findings into a book, titled "The International Bank of Bob." It basically describes what people, anyone like "Bob" or "Mary", can lend to the poor through and its implementing partners around the world. In other words, anyone can be an international lender through this channel. Hence, The International Bank of Bob. Not the bank of Bob Harris.

UOB is the largest implementing partner for in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Surprise? Bob came to Rwanda and really liked what is being done through UOB so much. So he allocated a whole chapter for UOB (Chapter Eight). We are deeply honored.

He is an excellent writer. His writings are fun and inspirational also. You will like it.

You can buy it at or Barnes & Noble for iTune or Kindle. To learn more, click here

Happy reading! - Jeffrey

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Rwandan Wedding...

Kamari and Alida in Mushanan
Rwanda is a small country in the heart of Africa, the size of the state of Maryland in the U.S. Its terrain is mountainous with thousand hills. So Rwanda is called the Land of Thousand Hills.

Rwandans value their marriage. It is a holy matrimony and people spend a lot of time for planning and significant amount of money for wedding.

Rwandan wedding has three ceremonies. They are traditional, religious and civil wedding ceremonies. "Wow"... you may say. And it is indeed "Wow!"

Traditional wedding is done with the bride, the groom and their families wearing traditional clothes, called mushanan. Traditional wedding involves mutual introduction and dowry giving. Dowry is given in  the form of cow. Cow? Yes. The number of cows determines how much the bride is valued. Of course, people living in the urban areas may give the dowry in money but equivalent to the price of the number of cows the groom gives to the bride's parents. There are a lot more steps and philosophy built into this ceremony and if you want to learn more, click here  This blog will give you detailed steps involved in the Rwandan wedding process.

Religious and civil wedding ceremonies are many times combined. It was interesting to find out that the bride and the groom were seated along with their bride mate and the best man facing the crowd.

After the religious and civil wedding ceremonies, a reception follows. Reception is filled with music and dancing.

Yes, it is costly and is a huge barrier to the poor people. It is a good custom but creates a tremendous burden for a lot of people.

Two of UOB staff got married after a long "obvious" but secret dates. I am supposed to be a father figure for them. I attended their church wedding but borrowed some photos of their traditional wedding to show you what the wedding looked like. Congratulations, Kamari and Alida! - Jeffrey

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Faith, Family and Friends....

George Bush Senior, a former president of the U.S. once said that what he would consider most valuable in life are 3 F's. They are Faith, Family and Friends. I agree. Wholeheartedly.

They all have one thing in common. It is relationship.

Faith is for the right and restored relationship with the creator God and His Son, our Savior. Faith defines our spiritual identity that transcends this life on earth into eternity. This identity is defined not through how much we own, but through who we are. It is the spiritual foundation.

Family is for the basic relationship that defines our human identity on earth. Upwards. Downwards. Side-wards. Family is where we can taste the heaven. Love, caring, sharing, understanding, patience, growth, encouragement, happiness, unity in diversity. Family also includes the covenant family: the church.

Friends are for the basic relationship that defines our social identity. Friends are in upstream, downstream and parallel stream. Also, friends can be in deep relationship or shallow acquaintance. Friends listen, understand, encourage, guide, advise, share, laugh, weep together.

Faith, family and friends are all relational. Relationship is invisible. Relationship thus does not grow externally. It grows internally. It grows mature.

Mature faith deepens the relationship with God.
Mature relationship with family evidences deep care and patient love.
Mature relationship with friends grows into seasoned understanding and willing sacrifice.

Come to think of it, Jesus Christ is the only being who meets all three.

He is God and requires faith of us to establish the relationship.
He enabled us to be adopted into God's family through our faith in His redemptive cross.
He declared that he would call us His friends and willingly sacrificed His life to cleanse our sins on our behalf.

The more clear reason why I should love Him more and more. May my faith in Jesus, my family life through Jesus and my friendship with Jesus grow more mature everyday! - Jeffrey

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Ministry Updates - May 2013

Dear family, friends and fellow Kingdom workers

May was a month of many travels for us. When we returned to Rwanda, personally I have taken 22 flights all together over 40,000 miles, having attended two conferences and spoken on seven occasions. We are grateful for God's travel mercy because we have been kept safe and healthy throughout the journey.

Nonetheless, God was never idle but always at work. The following were the highlights of His work through us.:

1. UOB held its quarterly board meeting on May 30 and 31. UOB is blessed with godly and professional members of the board, who tirelessly work together in great fellowship and with independent thinking.

2. mHose, UOB's mobile banking platform, has picked up its pace of the launch. Now UOB has signed up 20 agents and more than 1,600 clients for mHose that is using mVISA transaction engine. As mVISA signs up more bank clients, its outreach will only grow faster. Along with mHose launch, UOB has been distributing UOB Grace cards to clients. So far almost 20,000 clients have received the cards. They will become an integral part of UOB's Client Service Points strategy.

3. UOB has finally signed a $650,000 grant agreement with International Finance Corporation (IFC) in May. This funding will be used to expand the mHose agent network.

4. Opportunity International Germany has been successful in obtaining approval for an Euro175,000 grant to UOB. This will be used to expand UOB's Education Finance program. Praise the Lord who provides all resources!

5. UOB signed an agreement with Opportunity International Canada Foundation to receive a local currency funding equivalent to USD538,000 in the form of convertible term deposit. This funding is from Master Card Foundation and will be used for rural savings, access points and agricultural finance. The convertible term deposit is a new form of funding we are trying for the first time, which is expected to help comply with the central bank's requirement on the loan to deposit ratio. I am grateful to God for OI Canada's open-minded willingness to help.

6. UOB has formed a task force to work on the bank's migration of its core banking system into T24 R10 model bank scheduled for August 2013. This task force is meeting regularly to clean up data and do the preparatory work prior to the migration. Once the migration is complete, UOB will strengthen its core banking service efficiency and security. Moreover, UOB will be ready for the cloud computing when it is implemented.

7. Jeffrey attended HOPE Leadership Summit in Lancaster PA. HOPE is one of UOB's shareholders and this was his fourth attendance. In addition to worship, praise, vision sharing, business discussion and fellowship, it was one of highlights to watch the Christian musical "Noah" at the Millennium Theater.

8. Jeffrey preached during the worship service at Jubilee Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and held a special session about Business as Mission and UOB ministry after the service. Moreover, I had the joy of fellowship with Pastor Steve and his wife Mona, another couple Insoo and Sarah Kang, and elders of the church.

9. Jeffrey taught a class for two whole day sessions at Institute for Biblical Community Development, Siloam Springs, AR. The class was a size of twenty people from 13 nations who were attending a generalist training session at the Center for Integral Mission. The topics that I taught were Good Steward's Financial Management and Holistic Transformational Development through Christian Micro Finance. It was a blessing to me.

10. Shalom Bible Study (SBS) resumed on May 31 after a six week break for us. But the SBS continued their meetings during our absence, which was a great encouragement to us. Two brothers have newly joined. For the next several months, we will study together the Book of Hebrews. May the study shape and mold us to be stronger and better prepared disciples of Jesus.

11. Kristin and I traveled to Ecuador for 12 days as part of our 30th anniversary celebration. The travel was filled with fascinating findings of the country's rich culture, beautiful colors, temperate climate and affordable cost of living. It was a time of rest and reflection also. We also had great joy of seeing our old friends in New York (both), Los Angeles (Kristin), Philadelphia (Jeffrey), Siloam Springs (Jeffrey). It is always encouraging and uplifting to fellowship with them.

12. Family News Update:  

  • Kristin and I had a reunion in New York with our younger daughter Joyce who has been serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal Africa for the past one year. The time was short but sweet. We plan to visit her in December this year. 
  • Amanda, our older daughter, separated from her service with US Air Force as captain in May. We celebrated God's faithful grace over her nine years of military life, including four years of study at the US Air Force Academy. She will follow her husband for a while until they settle down in Florida next year.
  • Jeffrey's father has shown significant improvements over the past few months. Praise the Lord!
  • Kristin's mother has continued deteriorating her health. When we visited her in New York, she did not recognize us. It was a sad moment but we prayed for God's transcending peace over her heart, mind and soul.

13. Prayer Requests:

  • Rwanda is still recovering from the adverse macroeconomic impact related to reduced or suspended foreign aid into the country. The aid started flowing in again but the impact is yet to be seen and felt. Meanwhile, it is the poor who suffer most. Please pray with us for quick and complete recovery.
  • Please pray for continued successful expansion of the client service point (CSP) strategy, including mHose and Grace cards. This would only enhance the client access to various financial services.
  • Please pray for continued expansion of holistic life improvement (HLI) training for clients through our field staff. The pace of training has expanded significantly from 2012 now to more than 23,000 clients getting the training a month. Also, pray for the fuller scale implementation of 5W for more effective standardization of group meeting methodology. 
  • Please pray for careful and considerate pilot testing on holistic community development (HCD) project in Rwamagana. We would need to work with many stakeholders and effective collaboration will be a must for successful implementation of WAHEHE (Water/Sanitation/Hygiene, Agriculture, Health, Education, Housing and Energy)
  • Please pray for thorough preparation to achieve seamless migration to T24 R10 model bank. This migration will be essential to take the bank to the next level.
  • Please pray for fruitful outcome of Edu Finance program and Agricultural Finance program, particularly in conjunction with DFID ifE grant and now OI Germany's support. 
  • Please pray for God's grace and mercy over our heart and mind so that we may not neglect our relational duties because of too many ministries. 
As always, we celebrate and rejoice with you in the good and faithful Lord who has been gracious to us with overflowing abundance. We greatly appreciate your standing with us through your prayer and support.

Gratefully in His service,

Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from Kigali, Rwanda